St. Bonaventure begins Atlantic 10 play against UMass this afternoon.
The Bonnies finished non-conference play 10-3, and a perfect 4-0 record at home.
The biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s team has been the depth. Ten players average at least a bucket a game, which has helped take the pressure off Katie Healy.
Healy’s points per game are down five points from last year, and the Bonnies have only two players who average double figures, but the depth has really helped St. Bonaventure, specifically in their last game against Georgetown.
Imani Outlaw and Miranda Drummond combined for 17 points in 33 minutes that helped St. Bonaventure beat Georgetown 70-64. It’s contributions like the ones Outlaw and Drummond gave that can make this team a very good one.
“Miranda is someone who is learning every day, she will help us in A-10 play,” said Crowley. “Imani has played some of her best basketball the last few games. She is a real weapon for us when she is aggressive and she has been recently.”
Some days Healy will shoot 2 for 10 like she did against Georgetown, but it’s important that coach Jim Crowley has the depth to get through those rough patches.
And that’s the idea of non-conference play, figuring out what depth your team has so they can learn for future situations.
“I thought our non-conference play really helped us learn about our group, while we had some struggles, we also had some great positives,” said Crowley. “We had a number of different people play important minutes in critical situations.”
One of the players who has benefited from important minutes in critical situations has been freshman Mariah Ruff.
Ruff has started the last Bonaventure games for Emily Michael. Michael missed the game on Dec. 20 against Niagara, but dressed and played against Georgetown. Although Ruff has started for Michael, Crowley has not decided who will be the team’s starting point guard from here on out.
“I think Mar has responded very well and there is no way I can guess who will be starting in the future,” said Crowley.
He also added, “Emily is a major part of who we are.”
Ruff has struggled from the field (shooting 32.3 percent), but has averaged 11.6 points per game since Crowley inserted her in the starting line-up.
As important as the role players will be for St. Bonaventure in conference play, it’s Healy, Hannah Little, Nyla Rueter and Gabby Richmond who will have the most say in how good this team can be.
Healy recently scored her 1,000th career point, but she’s been way more than a scorer in her career so far.
“Katie gets a lot of attention for her scoring as she should, but she is such a complete player,” said Crowley. “She passes and rebounds really well and her defense is really good.”
Opponents have averaged 55.5 points a game on St. Bonaventure, which is second best in the Atlantic 10. St. Bonaventure plays team defense. Everyone has to buy in for the team to be successful.
“I think both Hannah (Little) and Gabby (Richmond) have played very well defensively for us,” said Crowley.
Little remains the best defensive rebounder on the team, while Richmond isn’t too far behind. Little is sixth in the conference in blocked shots.
Rueter has had some big moments in non-conference play. She’s missed two free throws, has the fifth most steals in the conference and the eighth most 3-pointers made. She’s been great on both ends of the court, and will be counted on to continue her high play.
With 16 conference games, the Bonnies have plenty of time to get it right before March.
“I expect us to compete every night in conference play,” said Crowley. “I like our talent level and if we have consistent effort we can do some good things.”
*I’m stuck at home for two more weeks, but I’ll be back to regularly covering the team on Jan. 18.